Guest blog post by Patrick Black of Precision Contracting Corp.
Outfitting a new office or updating your existing space is exciting, but build-out projects like these require significant time and investment. Your office renovation should be one of the best experiences of your career – one that gives you a great sense of pride and accomplishment. To make the process as smooth as possible, here are five common pitfalls you should be aware of before getting started:
1. Signing the agreement without qualifying the space
You may find the perfect space with the right square footage and best location, but before you sign, bring in a contractor. This professional can help you determine the answer to an important question: can we put an office in this space? Some of the items your contractor will consider to qualify the space include:
- Confirm the occupancy use of the space. Is it zoned to be the type of office you need?
- Are the electrical and plumbing systems sufficient for configuration?
- Are HVAC systems already in place? And if so, is the size significant?
- If the answer for any of these is no, what is the cost to add them? Does that expense make sense when considering your budget for the entire project?
Before you move forward, you need a full picture of what the investment cost will be to turn the existing space into your ideal office environment.
Pat’s tip: If you are signing a commercial lease, look for a minimum of a 10-year term with a 5-year renewal option to get the most out of your build-out investment. You do not want to invest a significant amount of money and not have the chance to renew your lease after the term.
Source: Precision Contracting Corp.
2. Delaying bringing an equipment vendor into the conversation
Office build-outs have numerous players and many moving parts that overlap throughout the project. It is crucial to get your equipment vendors involved early in the process. Together, you can lay out the space and consider which pieces of equipment will impact design and construction – all while planning for the related implementation costs. If you delay this step, you may need to make changes to your plans after the fact, which could drive up costs unexpectedly.
This step is also your opportunity to get construction and equipment budgets together to explore financing options for the project.
3. Choosing a contractor solely on personal relationship
Researching potential contractors is a time-consuming task, but skipping this step can lead to frustration down the line. Some business owners try to save time by hiring a family member or friend who does trade work. More often than not, working with a personal contact on a complex build-out project leads to tension, putting a strain on the relationship. Some of the common challenges include:
Lack of pricing transparency – Your friend or family member may quote the project at ‘time and materials’ – but what does that really mean? In these situations, it can be difficult to get a concrete number upfront, which can lead to sticker shock down the line.
Delayed timelines – If your contact is doing you a favor, such as giving you a reduced price, you may pay for it in the form of timeline setbacks. In these situations, clients paying full price are often given preferential treatment on the schedule, which can push your project back by weeks or more.
Office construction requires extreme attention to detail and industry-specific knowledge. When vetting contractors:
- Take the time necessary to find a contractor who is best qualified to handle your project
- Look for one that has experience doing similar projects
- Request a list of references
4. Selecting a bid without making an apples-to-apples comparison
Once you narrow down your short list of potential contractors, it’s time to start comparing bids. It is important to make a true apples-to-apples comparison in order to find the best bid for your project.
Bids often include allowances, so double check what these items refer to. For example, two bids may differ greatly if one makes an allowance for a high-end floor versus another that includes an economical option. Another area where this commonly happens relates to air conditioning units. A contractor may substitute a cheaper option compared to the architect’s original specifications in order to save money. It is within your right to ask your potential contractors for an “as equal” option and let the architect approve it.
Pat’s tip: HVAC and finishes are the biggest items that swing the project, so keep a close eye on these line items.
5. Rushing the process
After you select your contractor, you may be anxious to get started as soon as possible, but be careful not to rush the project. Take time to review your floorplan, make sure it is functional, ensure everything will work together efficiently, and confirm that you are 100% comfortable with the set up. Consider every detail, from creating the ideal flow through the office to implementing the right light fixtures to reduce eye strain. This project is a custom build to meet your needs, so make sure it’s perfect.
Patrick Black is a 19-year industry veteran and owner of Precision Contracting Corp., a full service contracting company. To learn more, visit: http://precisioncontractingcorp.com
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